Healthcare Industry News:  pegylated interferon 

Biopharmaceuticals Regulatory

 News Release - November 15, 2007

PEGINTRON(TM) and REBETOL(R) Approved in European Union for Retreating Hepatitis C Patients Who Failed Previous Pegylated or Non-Pegylated Interferon Therapy

First and Only Peginterferon Therapy Approved for Retreating Both Hepatitis C Relapsers and Nonresponders

KENILWORTH, N.J., Nov. 15 (HSMN NewsFeed) -- Schering-Plough Corporation (NYSE: SGP ) today announced that the European Commission on October 30 approved 48-week standard-dose PEGINTRON(TM) (peginterferon alfa- 2b, 1.5 mcg/kg once weekly) and REBETOL« (ribavirin, 800 - 1,400 mg daily) combination therapy for retreating adult patients with chronic hepatitis C whose prior treatment with interferon alpha (pegylated or non-pegylated) and ribavirin combination therapy or interferon alpha monotherapy did not result in a sustained response. PEGINTRON and REBETOL is the first and only pegylated interferon combination therapy approved in the European Union (EU) for retreating both hepatitis C relapsers and nonresponders.

The European Commission approval of this expanded indication for PEGINTRON and REBETOL results in Marketing Authorization with unified labeling that is valid in the current EU 27 member states as well as in Iceland and Norway.

"This approval is an option for the large number of hepatitis C patients who failed prior therapy because it gives them a second chance at success," said Nadine Piorkowsky, president of the European Liver Patient Association (ELPA). "These patients want to eradicate the virus and now can determine after 12 weeks of retreatment with PEGINTRON combination therapy whether they are likely to go on to achieve a sustained response with a 48-week course of therapy."

The approval is based on results from an ongoing non-comparative clinical study (EPIC3)(1) in which 1,336 patients with moderate to severe fibrosis or cirrhosis who failed previous treatment with combination alpha interferon/ribavirin therapy were retreated with PEGINTRON combination therapy. In this study, virological response at week 12 of treatment was shown to be an important predictor for achieving a sustained virological response (SVR), with 57 percent of patients who had undetectable virus (HCV- RNA) at week 12 going on to achieve SVR with a 48-week course of therapy. Within this subgroup, the SVR rates were 59 percent and 47 percent for patients who failed prior therapy with non-pegylated or pegylated interferon, respectively.

Approximately 37 percent of patients in the study overall had undetectable virus at week 12. Importantly, patients who achieved a significant reduction in virus (greater than 2 log decrease) but did not have undetectable virus at week 12, had little chance of achieving SVR (6 percent). Overall, 23 percent of patients in the study achieved SVR, including 16 percent of patients who failed prior peginterferon and ribavirin combination therapy. SVR is defined as undetectable HCV-RNA at 24 weeks post-treatment.

"Based on a patient's treatment history, these PEGINTRON data allow physicians to identify which patients in this hard-to-treat population are right for retreatment and are most likely to achieve a sustained response," said Thierry Poynard, M.D., professor of medicine, University of Paris VI, Hopital Pitie-Salpetriere, Paris, and a lead investigator of the EPIC study. "The predictability of response with PEGINTRON means patients with undetectable virus at week 12 have an even chance of success regardless of whether they failed previous therapy with pegylated or non-pegylated interferon and can be motivated to continue treatment, and those patients who fail to achieve an early response can have their therapy stopped with confidence."

In the study, failure to prior therapy was defined as relapse or nonresponse to one or more courses of interferon alpha plus ribavirin combination therapy (HCV-RNA positive at the end of a minimum of 12 weeks of treatment). Patients who were HCV-RNA negative at treatment week 12 continued treatment for a total of 48 weeks and were followed for 24 weeks post- treatment.

Based on results from the EPIC3 study, the recommended duration of dosing with PEGINTRON combination therapy for retreating patients who failed previous therapy and who have undetectable virus at week 12 is 48 weeks, regardless of HCV genotype.

PEGINTRON in the European Union

PEGINTRON and REBETOL combination therapy was previously approved in the EU for treating chronic hepatitis C in na´ve (previously untreated) adult patients, including na´ve patients with clinically stable HIV coinfection. The recommended dose in the EU for combination therapy is PEGINTRON 1.5 mcg/kg once weekly plus REBETOL 800-1,400 mg daily, adjusted to body weight. The recommended duration of treatment is 24 weeks for na´ve patients with HCV genotype 1 with low viral load and rapid virologic response (RVR) or HCV genotype 2 or 3. The recommended duration of treatment is 48 weeks for na´ve patients with HCV genotype 1 and high viral load or low viral load without RVR, HCV genotype 4 or HIV coinfection regardless of HCV genotype. PEGINTRON had previously received centralized marketing authorization in the EU and is marketed as a monotherapy in cases of intolerance or contraindication to ribavirin for the treatment of adult patients with chronic hepatitis C.

Chronic hepatitis C is estimated to affect more than 10 million people in major world markets, including 5 million in Europe. It is a leading cause of chronic liver disease and one of the most common reasons for liver transplant in Europe.

PEGINTRON in the United States

In the United States, PEGINTRON is indicated for use alone or with ribavirin for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C in patients with compensated liver disease who have not been previously treated with interferon alpha and who are at least 18 years of age. PEGINTRON is not indicated in the United States for retreatment of patients who failed previous interferon therapy.

Important Safety Information Regarding U.S. Labeling for PEGINTRON and REBETOL

Alpha interferons, including PEGINTRON and INTRON« A, may cause or aggravate fatal or life-threatening neuropsychiatric, autoimmune, ischemic, and infectious disorders. Patients should be monitored closely with periodic clinical and laboratory evaluations. Patients with persistently severe or worsening signs or symptoms of these conditions should be withdrawn from therapy. In many, but not all cases, these disorders resolve after stopping PEGINTRON and/or INTRON A therapy.

Use with Ribavirin: Ribavirin may cause birth defects and/or death of the unborn child. Extreme care must be taken to avoid pregnancy in female patients and in female partners of male patients. Ribavirin causes hemolytic anemia. The anemia associated with REBETOL therapy may result in a worsening of cardiac disease. Ribavirin is genotoxic and mutagenic and should be considered a potential carcinogen.


PEGINTRON is contraindicated in patients with hypersensitivity to PEGINTRON or any other component of the product, autoimmune hepatitis, and hepatic decompensation (Child-Pugh score greater than 6 [class B and C]) in cirrhotic CHC patients before or during treatment. INTRON A (Interferon alfa- 2b, recombinant) for Injection is contraindicated in patients with hypersensitivity to INTRON A or any component of the product, autoimmune hepatitis, and decompensated liver disease. PEGINTRON or INTRON A in combination with REBETOL therapy is additionally contraindicated in patients with hypersensitivity to ribavirin or any other component of the product, women who are pregnant, men whose female partners are pregnant, patients with hemoglobinopathies (e.g., thalassemia major, sickle-cell anemia), and patients with creatinine clearance less than 50 mL/min.

Avoid Pregnancy

REBETOL therapy should not be started until a report of a negative pregnancy test has been obtained immediately prior to planned initiation of therapy. Extreme care must be taken to avoid pregnancy in female patients and in female partners of male patients during therapy and 6 months post- treatment. Patients should use at least two effective forms of contraception and have monthly pregnancy tests during therapy and for 6 months after completion of therapy. A Ribavirin Pregnancy Registry has been established to monitor maternal-fetal outcomes of pregnancies in female patients and female partners of male patients exposed to ribavirin during treatment, and for 6 months following cessation of treatment. Physicians and patients are encouraged to report such cases by calling 1-800-593-2214.

Incidence of Adverse Events

There are no new adverse events specific to PEGINTRON as compared to INTRON A; however, the incidence of some (e.g., injection site reactions, fever, rigors, nausea) were higher. The most common adverse events associated with PEGINTRON were "flu-like" symptoms, occurring in approximately 50% of patients, which may decrease in severity as treatment continues. Application site disorders were common (47%), but all were mild (44%) or moderate (4%) and no patient discontinued, and included injection site inflammation and reaction (i.e., bruise, itchiness, irritation). Injection site pain was reported in 2% of patients receiving PEGINTRON. Alopecia (thinning of the hair) is also often associated with alpha interferons including PEGINTRON.

Psychiatric adverse events, which include insomnia, were common (57%) with PEGINTRON but similar to INTRON A (58%). Depression was most common at 29%. Suicidal behavior including ideation, suicidal attempts, and completed suicides occurred in 1% of patients during or shortly after completing treatment with PEGINTRON.

The following serious or clinically significant adverse events have been reported at a frequency less than 1% with PEGINTRON or interferon alpha: Severe decreases in neutrophil or platelet counts, hypothyroidism, hyperglycemia, hypotension, arrhythmia, ulcerative and hemorrhagic colitis, development or exacerbation of autoimmune disorders including thyroiditis, RA, systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriasis, pulmonary disorders (dyspnea, pulmonary infiltrates, pneumonitis and pneumonia, some resulting in patient deaths), urticaria, angioedema, bronchoconstriction, anaphylaxis, retinal hemorrhages, and cotton wool spots.

In the PEGINTRON/REBETOL combination trial, the incidence of serious adverse events was 17% in the PEGINTRON/REBETOL groups compared to 14% in the INTRON A/ REBETOL group. The incidence of severe adverse events in the PEGINTRON/REBETOL combination therapy trial was 23% in the INTRON A/REBETOL group and 31-34% in the PEGINTRON/REBETOL groups. Dose reductions due to adverse reactions occurred in 42% of patients receiving PEGINTRON (1.5 mcg/kg)/REBETOL and in 34% of those receiving INTRON A/REBETOL.

Additional Safety Information

Relapse of drug addiction/overdose has occurred in patients on PEGINTRON therapy. Aggressive behavior sometimes directed towards others has occurred in patients with and without a previous psychiatric disorder during PEGINTRON and/or INTRON A treatment and follow-up. If patients develop psychiatric problems, including clinical depression, it is recommended that patients be carefully monitored during treatment and in the 6-month follow-up period. If psychiatric symptoms persist or worsen, or suicidal ideation or aggressive behavior towards others is identified, it is recommended that treatment with PEGINTRON and/or INTRON A be discontinued, and the patient be carefully followed with psychiatric intervention, as appropriate. Cases of encephalopathy have been observed in some patients, usually elderly, treated with higher doses of PEGINTRON and/or INTRON A. Ischemic and hemorrhagic cerebrovascular events have been observed in patients treated with interferon alpha therapies, including PEGINTRON and INTRON A. Dental and periodontal disorders have been reported in patients receiving PEGINTRON or INTRON A in combination with REBETOL therapy.

For full prescribing information, please see the PEGINTRON Package Insert at

Schering-Plough is a global science-based health care company with leading prescription, consumer and animal health products. Through internal research and collaborations with partners, Schering-Plough discovers, develops, manufactures and markets advanced drug therapies to meet important medical needs. Schering-Plough's vision is to earn the trust of the physicians, patients and customers served by its approximately 33,500 people around the world. The company is based in Kenilworth, N.J., and its Web site is

SCHERING-PLOUGH DISCLOSURE NOTICE: The information in this press release includes certain "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including statements relating to the potential market for PEGINTRON and REBETOL. Forward-looking statements relate to expectations or forecasts of future events. Schering- Plough does not assume the obligation to update any forward-looking statement. Many factors could cause actual results to differ materially from Schering- Plough's forward-looking statements, including market forces, economic factors, product availability, patent and other intellectual property protection, current and future branded, generic or over-the-counter competition, the regulatory process, and any developments following regulatory approval, among other uncertainties. For further details and a discussion of risks and uncertainties that may impact forward-looking statements, see Schering-Plough's Securities and Exchange Commission filings, including Part II, Item 1A, "Risk Factors" in the company's third quarter 2007 10-Q.


1) EPIC3 (Evaluation of PEGINTRON in Control of Hepatitis C Cirrhosis) is a large multicenter global clinical study evaluating the benefits of PEGINTRON in the fibrotic and cirrhotic patient at approximately 140 sites worldwide.

Source: Schering-Plough

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